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Your Roku TV could soon show you ads every time you hit pause — even on other devices

Roku files a patent for injecting ads into HDMI devices connected to Roku TVs.

Published onApril 4, 2024

Roku Express shelf arrangement
Adam Birney / Android Authority
  • Roku has filed a patent that could allow it to inject ads into your viewing experience, even if you’re using a non-Roku streaming device.
  • The patent describes sophisticated ways to detect when you’ve paused your content and analyze what you’re watching to show relevant ads.

Roku could be looking to expand its advertising reach beyond its own platform. A recent patent filing discovered by Lowpass reveals the company’s exploration of ways to inject ads into video feeds from third-party devices connected to Roku TVs.

This means even if you’re playing a game on your Xbox or streaming from an Amazon Fire Stick, your Roku TV could automatically detect when you pause the movie or game and then display targeted advertisements on the screen.

Currently, Roku has limited visibility and advertising potential when you switch your Roku TV to an HDMI input from an external device. This patent aims to solve that by allowing Roku to monitor video signals across those HDMI ports.

The system Roku has described in the patent is pretty sophisticated. It can detect pauses through several methods, such as recognizing the “pause” button press from your remote, analyzing the audio and image to see if the sound goes silent and the picture stays the same, or using computer vision technology to spot the standard pause symbol on-screen.

Once a pause is detected, the system will analyze the paused frame to understand your viewing preferences. This data then determines the types of ads you’ll see. For instance, if you’re paused on a scene with a beach and a beer bottle, you can expect travel and beverage ads to appear. The patent even suggests that Roku could use gameplay signals, such as low latency mode activation, to identify you as a gamer and serve you ads tailored to your interests.

It’s important to note that there’s no guarantee Roku will actually implement this technology, but the patent does raise concerns about increased advertising intrusion. While ad breaks are common in streaming services, ads triggered by your own pausing sound more disruptive and raise questions about how much personal data Roku would track to make those ads hyper-targeted.

Roku would likely argue this makes ads more relevant and, therefore, less annoying. It might also point to the potential for lowering the cost of Roku devices for consumers, not too different from the many ad-supported services we have available already.

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